Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Yeats surveyed Madeleine, or rather, Madame Boyle, with an icy stare.
“She is a ligeia.” he said again. “She knows a forbidden occult art. When she dies, she will be resurrected inside another person, a bit like a silkworm chrysalis hatching into a moth. Her current body is just a cocoon, not the real one she inhabits, and when the time is right, she will break out of the cocoon. She will shed Madeleine’s outer skin and become what she really is. I think she will turn into the Madame Boyle of her youth.”
Duan FeiZhou just felt creeped out. So it wasn’t Madeleine who killed Madame Boyle, but the other way around? Then Madame Boyle…She was the last member of the Scarlet Feast?!
Madeleine – Madame Boyle pursed her lips and smiled.
“As expected of a great poet and a great writer. He understands so well.” She held her hands open wide, “I didn’t want to do this to Madeleine, the child was quite talented, and so letting her inherit my mantle would be common. But things sometimes happen by coincidence. I have been searching for the ‘Art of Ligeia’ for a long time, but found nothing. Jenny was a ligeia, and I guessed she must have hidden the secret art in the doll. However, I couldn’t afford the doll, I could only sigh in disbelief. I hadn’t expected the noble Master of the Trading House to ask me for Phantom Phosphorus butterfly wing powder, and was even willing to use the doll as an exchange! Don’t you think this is a hint from the heavens to me? I needed something, and something just happened to appear in front of me, and I had to reach out and grab it! So how could I justify not grabbing it!”
Duan FeiZhou was extremely angry and remorseful at the same time. In the beginning, he agreed to exchange Jenny the Rejuvenator’s doll for the Phantom Phosphorus butterfly wing powder, but he never thought that move would kill Madeleine! The young girl in the Secret Trading House was so dependent on her mentor, how could she know that her mentor was only using her as a tool to rejuvenate from the beginning!
Madame Boyle raised her palm towards Yeats. “I admire your writing, and it’s a shame to kill you. I’m sorry, but please go to hell!”
The fox cape leapt at Yeats with the speed of lightning!
Yeats’ expression was solemn and fearless as he chanted an incantation and wielded his cane to use invisible air currents to deflect the fox cape’s attack. Madame Boyle was not to be outdone and recited a complex incantation. Duan FeiZhou looked downstairs and saw something come out from the back of the stage. At first he thought it was a person, but then he looked more closely, and realized that it was one of the theater’s costumes.
Costume after costume seemed to come to life, then lunged at them with their teeth and claws. He immediately drew energy to meet the attack. These costumes were far less agile than the fox cape, and he easily knocked down several of them. However, there were just too many of them. After one was knocked out, another came after it, and they kept coming!
One pirate costume took its iron hand and hooked Duan FeiZhou’s wrist, and pulled him towards the box’s railing. Duan FeiZhou directly tumbled over the railing. This was the fourth floor! It wasn’t that high, but he could still get hurt! He hurriedly turned his palms downward and tried to convert the potential energy of his fall into other energy. He didn’t know if it would work, but it was a life-or-death situation, so he had to try!
The moment the energy was converted, Duan FeiZhou felt the speed of his fall slowing down. He landed as lightly as a feather. However, that didn’t make him any safer. There were more costumes floating downstairs than upstairs, and as soon as he hit the ground he was in a sea of clothes!
Duan FeiZhou clenched his teeth. He needed Sword in the Stone too much. If he immediately entered the Secret Trading House, picked up Sword in the Stone and then flew back, would he be too late?
As he was thinking, a silver light broke through the air and cut into the clothes that were trying to sneak up on him in two pieces.
Z came towards him. The blade of the Nightman’s right arm had snapped, but the blade of his left arm had cut gaping holes. His coat was gone, his shirt was torn in several places, and a crimson bloodstain crossed his cheek. However, it didn’t detract from his beauty, instead it added a touch of murderous rage to his handsome face.
“Where is the Red Death Demon?” Duan FeiZhou shouted.
“Torn to pieces.” Z said coldly. “Why are you still here? Why didn’t you go get help?”
“It’s a long story!” Duan FeiZhou knocked back another costume. “The culprit is Madeleine. No, Madame Boyle. She’s upstairs!”
“… Who and who?” The two unfamiliar names made Z a little confused.
“She’s the last member of the Scarlet Feast!”
There was a loud bang and Yeats fell down the stairs as well. Duan FeiZhou immediately pointed at him to slow his fall, but it was too late. Despite the helpful cushion, Yeats landed heavily. The poet struggled to get up, but quickly fell back down. He dropped to one knee and supported himself with his cane.
He looked at Z, and Z looked at him. At that moment, without words, Z understood who he was. Z said through clenched teeth, “…Your good friend the poet!”
“I’m afraid this is not a good time to arrest me, Mr. Detective.” Yeats wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth. “It’s a long story about who I am. The best thing we can do right now is work together to deal with that person.”
Madame Boyle fell gracefully. Her skirt danced without any wind, like an oversized jellyfish. The costumes manipulated by her seemed like a group of ghosts as they surrounded them.
Madame Boyle looked at the three of them, and a hint of surprise surfaced on the girlish face that had belonged to Madeleine. It looked like joy, as if she had been given an unexpected congratulatory gift. “I didn’t expect you to be able to defeat my Rune Spirit.”
Z stopped focusing on Yeats, and faced Madame Boyle in the air.
“I’ll deal with that woman,” he said. “You guys go evacuate those people backstage, then call the Nightmen outside for backup.”
Duan FeiZhou looked around at the costumes. If they were to get backstage, they would have to break through them. Once they left, Z would be left alone to face the costumes and Madame Boyle at the same time. He said to the poet, “I’ll stay here while Mr. Yeats goes backstage.”
“But…” Yeats was uneasy.
Duan FeiZhou interrupted him. “I want to attack with fire, there needs to be no civilians in the theater.”
Yeats blinked, and immediately understood what he meant. Those costumes were also Madame Boyle’s rune spirits, and although their ability was inferior to that of the Red Death, they had the advantage of numbers. If they left, it would be difficult to fight with one sword alone.
Therefore the best way was to attack by fire. The costumes were just fabric, and even a little bit of it will burn, so a fire was the most convenient. However, the theater was full of flammable materials since it was a wooden stage with curtains, carpets, seat padding…If he used fire to attack the costumes, there was a high probability that the entire theater would end up in a sea of fire.
There were still some actors who hadn’t escaped, still backstage in the theater. They were still waiting for the police to investigate the case since they had seen what had happened to the actor on the stage. In order not to accidentally hurt ordinary people, it was only after they were evacuated, could Duan FeiZhou use a fire attack.
Yeats was injured. If he forced himself to stay and fight alongside them, he might become a burden. He was the best person to evacuate the actors. He exchanged an affirmative look with Duan FeiZhou, and nodded. “I will come back to assist you after evacuating the civilians.”
Duan FeiZhou laughed. How did Yeats expect to come back? The poet had better run as far away as possible. Z already knew his identity, and when Madame Boyle was dealt with, it was time to turn around and solve him. He’d be shooting himself in the foot if he came back.
“I’ll cover you, go!”
The three men acted at the same time.
Z rushed towards Madame Boyle with his sword, while Yeats turned back and ran backstage. Duan FeiZhou jumped to cover Yeats and opened a path for him.
He drew energy from his brass ring, and disturbed the air around him. A strong wind wrapped around Yeats’ body, and deflected the costumes around him. He broke out of the circle, and got backstage through the entrance at the side of the stage.
The costumes tried to go after Yeats, but Duan FeiZhou stopped them.
He strengthened his hearing, and from far away came Yeats’ shout. “There’s a murderer lurking in the theater! The police are dealing with it! Please evacuate the theater quickly!”
There were chaotic shouts and footsteps, as people knocked over things, and some cried out. Luckily, the voices soon faded away as Yeats managed to lead them out of the theater.
In the theater, Z and Madame Boyle were fighting. Madame Boyle’s fox shawl was cut in two by his sword. She took off her bracelet again, and with a flick of the wrist, it transformed into a sword.
Duan FeiZhou remembered that this sword was no match for Sword in the Stone. He started to miss that noisy guy again. He shouted, “Z! I’m going to set fire to it!”
“You’d better hurry up!” Z roared.
There was very little energy left in the brass ring. If he had known that, he would have kept more rings. Duan FeiZhou extracted the remaining energy all at once and pushed it into the surrounding costumes as heat. A long gauzy dress ignited with a poof, and within seconds, the fire spread to the surrounding costumes.
The heat from the burning now turned into a weapon for Duan FeiZhou. He drew heat from one side, turned it into flames again and infected more costumes.
The occult technique controlling a costume floating in mid-air lost control. It floated down like a kite with a broken string and just brushed the stage curtain.
In a moment, flames engulfed the curtain.
If there were fire inspections in this era, the theater definitely wouldn’t pass. One after another, the burning costumes fell to the ground. It seemed that as long as they were damage to a certain extent Madame Boyle could no longer manipulate them.
When she saw her own spirits disappear one by one in the flames, Madame Boyle didn’t panic, but smiled.
“This fire is just what I want! A fire to burn all the evidence, isn’t it beautiful?” She laughed loudly. When Z’s sword came, she snapped her fingers and flew overhead.
However, she didn’t float in the air. She reversed gravity and stood on the ceiling as if she were on level ground. Duan FeiZhou had also seen this move in the Secret Trading House.
Z certainly could not chase her to the ceiling. He sneered and guarded Madame Boyle with bad grace. She had no way to stay on the ceiling for the rest of her life. When she ran out of energy and had to drop, it would be time for Z to strike.
“Dare not face me?”
Z spoke with sarcasm,”A member of the Scarlet Feast of occult practitioners, and that is all you can do? Oh, I forgot. You escaped first. You are really a coward.”
Madame Boyle didn’t get angry. Instead she smiled sweetly. “I just can’t bear to hurt you, young man. If I meant to, you wouldn’t even be able to stand under a single blow from me.”
Duan FeiZhou stepped over the flames and ran towards Z and came to a stop beside him. Although the energy in his ring had dried up, he took a fighting stance and hoped to intimidate Madame Boyle. He taunted, “You can’t even beat your Scarlet Feast prey, yet you dare to make such a wild statement?”
The fire was reflected on Madame Boyle’s cheeks as if they were covered with a grotesque mask.
“At that time, my body was old and decrepit, and my strength was weak, so I was no match for that little prey. However, now it’s different. I am back to the peak of my power! Today I will take back all that I missed before! The Scarlet Feast was full of occult practitioners of power, your power – and you!” She clenched her fist at Z.
Z raised his eyebrows “Do I know you?”
Madame Boyle strolled across the ceiling as if it weren’t a burning theater, but her family’s back garden. “Of course. But not the way I look now. If I hadn’t changed my body, and still used the same old look, you might have recognized me. Although, I’ve aged a lot compared to the last time we met.”
Her tone grew sweeter and sweeter.
Z tracked Madame Boyle as he also walked around the theater, “Who the hell are you?”
“We’re old friends!” Madame Boyle laughed. “Think about it again. I’ll give you a hint, I used to be a nurse.”
Z’s breath hitched, “You were…”
Duan FeiZhou stared up at the woman on the ceiling, horrified. A woman related to Z, a nurse and an occult practitioner. Someone who met all three of those criteria at the same time; he knew of exactly one.
The nurse who rehabilitated Z?
Z was transformed at the time of the Crimean War, and with Madame Boyle’s age, it was entirely possible that she had participated in that war. When the nurse fled the hospital, the Nightmen were unable to arrest her. So, after she escaped, she first lurked in Switzerland, and befriended the grandfather of the Möllen siblings. After eluding her pursuers, she returned to London, then later joined the Scarlet Feast and escaped on the day of Duncan McKellen’s killing spree?
Subsequently, she became the godmother and mentor of Miss Madeleine and a customer of the Secret Trading House, and finally used the goods bought from the trading house to steal the body of the young girl.
Z’s eyes, which had just recently regained their sight, were locked dead on Madame Boyle. Duan FeiZhou had never seen him exude such intense hatred. For a moment, Z seemed to be the young man who had just awakened from the basement and would slaughter everything around him in his madness and rage.
Madame Boyle gave a soft laugh. “I see you’ve remembered. It’s been a long time. I thought you were dead. I thought you were among those who were attacked in the field hospital, and no one survived. I was sad for a long time when I saw that news at that time. You are one of my most outstanding works, so it was too bad that you were gone.”
She jumped from the ceiling with both feet and landed lightly. The burning costumes were summoned by her and surrounded the three people, constantly writhing in bizarre ways, like an audience in a frenzy. The theater became a huge stage at this moment, and the three of them were the actors on the stage.
“However, you joined the Nightmen. What a surprise to me,” Madame Boyle said. “But come to think of it, who else but the Nightmen would take in a monster like you?”
The hot wind lifted Z’s silver hair, and Duan FeiZhou, worried that he would rush to fight Madame Boyle, hurriedly pulled him by the back of his collar. “Z, don’t be impulsive. She has an occult barrier around her. You’ll be at a disadvantage.”
“I know.” Z did not move from his spot, as he barely held back the impulse to break his enemy into pieces.
Madame Boyle looked at him admiringly. “After all these years I’m already old, but you’re still young. The Ether crystals that make up your heart are responsible for that, right? It seems that I wasn’t wrong in my original prediction. If I had known that my scheme would work, I wouldn’t have had to go through all the trouble of joining the Scarlet Feast, and poor Madeleine wouldn’t have died.”
Duan FeiZhou was so disgusted that he was about to throw up. If he understood correctly, Madame Boyle transformed Z’s body not only to complete his father’s mission, but also to…
“You want to live forever?” he asked slowly. “You turned Z into this form so you could use him as a test subject?”
“We all take what we can get.” Madame Boyle shrugged. “His father wanted his son to be reborn, and I needed an experimental subject to test my new research, so we hit it off. Unfortunately, the experiment went awry when he woke up and went crazy. So I had to give up on that path, and find another way to live forever.”
So she joined the Scarlet Feast. Jack the Ripper joined in order to get the taste of human flesh, she joined in order to find a way to regain her youth. Since ancient times there was a legend that bathing in the blood of a young girl would grant eternal youth. Why shouldn’t she think that devouring the flesh and blood could take away her time?
Duncan McKellen slaughtered the Scarlet Feast, and only she and Jack the Ripper escaped. She used the spell of ligeia on Miss Madeleine and took the girl’s body for herself…And she was a customer of the Secret Trading House.
If a customer buys a knife and kills someone with it, should the store be responsible? It was reasonable to say no, but Duan FeiZhou still felt a pang of self-loathing. He suddenly felt that he had become a breeding ground for evil and darkness. Perhaps the fact that he met Madame Boyle here and now was his destiny, so he could set things right.
The hand that clutched at the collar of Z’s coat was gripped.
“Help me kill her,” Z said viciously.
“Okay.” Duan FeiZhou responded. He had no more energy in his ring, but it didn’t matter. The theater was blazing with fire, and he could take it at will. He summoned the power, and attacked the occult barrier around Madame Boyle.
At the same time, Z flew forward and swung a sharp blade.
Madame Boyle darted away from his attack while reciting an incantation aloud. As the incantation burst out word by word, Z’s movements became slower and slower. It was as if his machinery wasn’t working properly.
“I carved the secret runes in your prosthetic limbs with my own hands, so I certainly have a way to disable them!” Madame Boyle was smug. With a wave of her veiled hand, blazing flames surged towards Z under her command.
Duan FeiZhou rushed up with a single arrow step and unleashed the opposite technique to expel the flames. Two diametrically opposed energies stirred in space, the flames were at one time manipulated by Madame Boyle and at another time subjugated under Duan FeiZhou. The two people went toe to toe, vying for control of the flames.
The energy ripped through their bodies, scraped over their skin like a sharp knife, and tore at the flames and the space around them. As occult practitioners, Duan FeiZhou was a novice, while Madame Boyle had accumulated decades of experience.
Time and time again, the sharp blades of energy cut Duan FeiZhou’s skin, and soon his shirt was soaked in blood. At the same time his self-healing ability wasn’t able to heal the wounds.
Madame Boyle manipulated the energy while she chanted a spell.
Z knelt on the ground, his lips pursed into a knife edge. His arms constantly trembled, as if he were enduring some great pain. Sweat dripped down his forehead and evaporated in the heat the moment it hit the ground.
The stirring energy hit the ceiling.
With a loud bang, the masonry collapsed, and smashed into the three people in the theater.
Duan FeiZhou tried to build up his energy to block the debris that came crashing down on him, but he realized there was no energy left for him to draw on. Madame Boyle laughed harder and harder. The moment he was distracted, all the energy around him was controlled by her, and he couldn’t extract it even if he wanted to.
A boulder rushed toward them.
The whole theater was about to collapse.
With Z immobilized by the spell and Madame Boyle on guard, Duan FeiZhou had no way to escape with him.
Were they going to die here?
“Leave me alone! You run!” Z yelled.
“No!” Duan FeiZhou shouted automatically.
At that moment, he touched his pocket. It contained the spell rune paper from the Secret Trading House. He had always kept it with him. Maybe he could escape into the trading house with Z. As long as the customer channel was not opened, Madame Boyle could not enter.
However only the Master of the Trading House could use the spell paper. Could Z get in? Even if they escaped for a while, if Madame Boyle was still here, who would deal with her?
Madame Boyle thought he had nowhere to run, so she carried her bracelet sword and came walking idly. Duan FeiZhou made a decision in a flash. He threw the spell rune on the ground.
Madame Boyle thrust a sword at him with terrific force. He raised his left hand and directly blocked the sword. The sword blade pierced his palm and blood splashed. Madame Boyle was slightly shocked, not expecting him to catch a blade with his bare hand.
Duncan McKellen had used the same trick. He inherited Duncan’s strength, so this small injury would heal after only a short time. Meanwhile, he grabbed Z’s arm with his uninjured right hand and stepped onto the spell rune.
Madame Boyle’s smile froze on her face. Her two prey were sucked into the rune paper in front of her.
Duan FeiZhou fell heavily to the ground.
What caught him was a soft shag carpet. He knew that he had entered the trading house.
Where was Z? Without a care for the pain in his body, he hurriedly got up and looked around. There was a sound behind him.
Z lay on the carpet, and pressed the corner of his forehead. “What happened?”
The wound on Duan FeiZhou’s palm was healing at a rate visible to the naked eye, “I’ve teleported you to a safe place.”
Z moved his limbs and sat up after making sure he hadn’t suffered any fatal injuries. His eyes widened. He didn’t need any introduction to understand where this was. At this moment, the leader of the Nightmen was standing in the middle of the Secret Trading House.